Past Curator’s Picks

Chaise Longue

Of the two new exhibit rooms in the Year of Dawes exhibit, “A Crowded Life”, we have restored one of the Dawes’ bedrooms. One piece has an interesting history, the chaise longue.

French for “long chair”, the chaise longue (shayz-LAWNG) provided a comfortable spot to relax and read or sew. This piece was probably designed and manufactured by Hasselgren Studios, a Chicago furniture company. Hasselgren furniture was included in exhibits at the Chicago Architectural Club in the early 1900s. The company went bankrupt in the 1920s and its stock was sold by John A. Colby and Sons. The Dawes’ piece was purchased from Colby’s, probably about that time. It is made of mahogany with a cane back. The upholstered seat and loose pillow were later slipcovered in a floral pattern for Mrs. Dawes.    We have placed Caro Dawes’ sewing table next to the chaise, as Caro was known for the extensive knitting she produced for the troops during World War 1.

Copper Lions Head

img_34461

The Evanston Library Association was founded in 1870 and Thomas J. Kellan was appointed the first librarian in 1874. In 1893 the library moved to the second floor of the new Village Hall and the library’s collection was reorganized according to the new Dewey Decimal Classification system in 1896. In 1908 the library moved to its current location at 1703 Orrington Ave.

This Copper Lions Head is from the neo-classical library which opened on January 1, 1908. Its grand look and downtown location highlighted Evanstonians’ continued emphasis on learning and new found wealth.

The library cost $135,464.69 to build. Industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie donated $50,000 on the condition that the library board match his gift, a challenge he posed to communities throughout the country.

Railroad Lantern

lamp1-225x300

Evanston’s founders knew that their success depended in part on linking their town to Chicago. They convinced the management of the Chicago and Milwaukee Railroad to stop in Evanston.
The first train ran through Evanston on December 19, 1854. It had one engine and one coach and made only one trip each day to and from Chicago.When the railroads later expanded service, however, travel between Chicago and its new suburbs got much easier. By the late 1880s, many commuters had moved to Evanston and filled its railroad stations every morning. In the 1890s, Evanstonians debated building an electric street railroad: Others disagreed, saying it would make the streets noisy and difficult to travel and would bring new people to Evanston, changing the climate of the town.The railroad lantern, pictured above, was presented to Mr. Paddock by the Chicago Northwestern Railroad for a lifetime of executive service. He was executive secretary to the President of the Chicago Northwestern Railroad at the Chicago Office in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. It has his name etched into the glass globe.

Camp Goodwill Donation and Suggestion Box

camp-goodwill1

Evanstonians enjoyed their summers with healthful exercise, fresh air, and lakefront recreation.  They pitied those Chicagoans stuck in crowded unsanitary conditions.Evanston’s women organize Camp Goodwill!Camp Goodwill operated from 1900 to 1917.  The camp brought women and children from congested areas of Chicago to relax for a week in tents along the lake.  Once at camp, city dwellers could rest and play in the fresh air, on the beach, and in the woods.  Evanston women solicited donations from area churches and private individuals to establish and run the camp.Camp Goodwill in many ways encapsulates the character of Evanston at this time: Connected to the industrial city of Chicago but also a retreat from the city.Committed to public service and possessing the resources to invest in charity work and reform efforts.

 Go-to-Bear Match Safe

bear-match-safe

This charming bear is on display in the East Parlor here at the Evanston History Center. Can you find it?Made of cast metal, it is hollow with a hinged head and glass eye.Without electricity it would have been difficult to move about your home after the sun went down. This little bear could help you get to bed safely. When it was time to head up to bed, you would strike the match on a textured body of the bear and then put it into the hole at the top of the tree trunk. The light would be enough to get you upstairs where a bedside candle could then be lit; hence this is known as a “Go-To-Bed”.

 In Honor of American Archives Month: The Evanston Community Chest

community-chest-flier

1932 was a hard year for Evanstonians.  More than 1400 families were in need of assistance, the city budget had been severely slashed, the high school was borrowing money to pay its bills, and the two elementary school districts (75 and 76) began considering consolidation to save money. Although the stock market crash took place in 1929, 1932 and 1933 seem to be the hardest years in Evanston, with the entire Evanston community striving mightily, as they said then, “to sustain its own burden.”  Government aid was limited, with the programs of the New Deal coming after Roosevelt was inaugurated in January of 1933, and many Evanstonians generally felt that it was a matter of civic pride for Evanston to find solutions within itself.As part of these efforts, a group of Evanston “Relief and Welfare” organizations joined forces to coordinate their work and raise funds for their programs.  They joined a national trend of founding “Community Chest” organizations to function as clearing houses for funds for social service agencies.  In 1932, twelve organizations formed the Community Chest of Evanston — including the Central Association of Evanston Charities, Community Hospital, the Girl and Boy Scouts, the Evanston Day Nursery, the Illinois Children’s Home and Aid Society, the Salvation Army, School Children’s Welfare Association, the Visiting Nurses Association, and the YWCA.  Each member organization submitted a budget and work plan for the year.  Once approved, the joint budget for the Community Chest was placed before the community and the fundraising began.The first campaign began in October, seeking to raise $239,000. At first, they had trouble raising funds — by the scheduled close of the campaign on November 1st they had raised only 1/3 of their goal.  Emergency community meetings were called and urgent pleas were issued from civic leaders.  Benefit football and basketball games were held, as well as bake sales and fashion shows, to spur interest and raise funds. When the campaign finally closed in December it had raised more than $164,000 and although they fell short of their goal, they felt that the campaign was a success given the hard economic times and the newness of the idea to the community.The Evanston Community Chest grew to greatly exceeded its goals of centralizing giving and simplifying the fundraising process for small organizations.  By the 1960s, it, along with most Community Chest organizations, had changed its name to the Evanston United Way.

Lucile Roebuck Keeler Painting: “Harbor”

harbor

Lucile Keeler was born in Chicago on April 16, 1902 to Albert and Blanch Roebuck.Lucile began taking classes at the Art Institute of Chicago in the 1930’s.  She was, ‘constantly working with new media and different styles’ and really believed that ‘it helped the artist grow.’  While at the Art Institute Keeler studied under Francis Chapin, an American landscape and portrait artist.  Her paintings presented a combination of color and design in harmonious expressions, and are reviewed as ‘very likeable.’  We hope you will come see some of her pieces in the “Lifting as We Climb:” Evanston Women and the Creation of a Community exhibt which opened in March.

Red Cross Armband

RedCrossArmband

Mary Glenn, the first Evanston woman to wear a uniform during the First World War, wore this Red Cross armband during her service as an ambulance driver here in Evanston and Chicago.  She drove wounded from the navel base on Lake Michigan to the hospitals in the area after she gained mechanic skills through the Motor Corps, a volunteer service that consisted entirely of women.Most women of Evanston who wanted to help during the First War had to volunteer their time on the home front in the Red Cross and the Motor Corps because there were not many opportunities for them in the military.  This meant that many women who sacrificed their time and lives for their country did it without pay, recognition, and even the right to vote!

Lincoln Lantern

IMG_0186

This is a three sided lantern that was carried in political events during the 1864 presidential election. The lamp was used during torch-lit election parades. On the right side of the picture one can see “Lincoln and Johnson.” On the back is “Liberty and Union” the two major rallying points for the North.

Bagatelle

bagatelle

This is Bagatelle!  Bagatelle is the father of modern pinball games!To learn more about Bagatelle visit the Elliott Avedon Viritual Museum of Games by clicking here.  They have a very interesting history of the game!

 Razor Strop, Straight Razor and Shaving Mug/Brush

ShavingKit

This is a razor strop!  This razor strop is made out of leather (some are made from canvas) and was used to straighten and polish the blade of a straight razor.*Throughout the 19th century, the most common means of shaving was the straight razor.  Whether wielded by the man or his barber, it required some skill to use without nicking the skin.  The razor had to be regularly stropped to hone its edge.  Soap was mixed with water in a shaving mug and applied to the face with a natural boar or badger hair shaving brush.The first patent was issued for a safety razor in 1880, but, until Gillette patented the disposable razor blade in 1901, a man still had to resharpen his safety razor blades when they became dull.The first patent for an electric razor was issued to Jacob Schick in 1928, the first came into common use in the 1930’s.  For the first time a man could shave his face without water or soap.*Text written by Janet Messmer for the exhibit “Bedrooms, Bathrooms & Boudoirs.”

John Evans Letter

EvansLetter

This letter came into our collection in 2002.  It was written by John Evans to Honorary Stephen Arnold Douglas (Hon. S.A. Douglas).  John Evans was one of the founders of Northwestern University, he was one of the first people to build a home in the area, and Evanston is named after him.  Hon. S.A. Douglas was an American politician from Illinois.  He was a U.S. Representative, a U.S. Senator, and the Democratic Party nominee for President in the 1860 election, losing to Republican Abraham Lincoln.The letter is in regards to Robert Kennicott, an early Smithsonian scientific explorer and collector.  The letter reads:Chicago 26th /58 (1858)

Hon. S.A. Douglas

Dear Sir

The bearer Mr. Robert Kennicott son of Dr. J.A.K. is curator to the museum of the N.W. University at Evanston.  He is now working up his collections at the Smithsonian Institute.  He may wish to procure for his purpose, books, documents & O. in the public Archives at once – or to make an interest in behalf of our excellent library in the institution which are at your disposal.  If so be that you can favor him it will be thankfully acknowledged by the Institution and worthily received by Mr. K. himself.

Very respectfully

Your (?)

John Evans

 

Surgeon’s Operating Case

SurgeonCase

This is a surgeon’s operating case!  This case was made between 1851 and 1881.  Doesn’t it look gruesome?  Even though the tools look gruesome, surgical devices like these saved countless lives.  They helped surgeons remove bullets, stopped blood loss and amputate dangerously wounded arms and legs.We do not know for sure if this kit was used in the Civil War.  We do know that its maker, Dietrich Kolbe, had a contract to produce surgical sets for Union troops during the American Civil War.

Susan B. Anthony Law Books

SuffrageBooks

These law books belonged to suffragette Susan B. Anthony and are inscribed with her signature to Catharine McCulloch.  McCulloch was a lawyer, suffragist, political activist, and mother who lived in Evanston.  She was the first woman in the United States to serve as Justice of the Peace and is largely responsible for the passing of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution allowing all citizens to vote.Stop in to visit our new Adopt-an-Artifact exhibit, which was put together but our Fall intern, Fleming!To learn more about The Women’s History Project click here.To learn more about Adopt-an-Artifact click here.

Business Card

BusinessCard

While working on the geo-thermal and electricity upgrade at the Dawes house, workers found this sweet little business card behind the baseboard of one of the third-floor servant rooms.This business card is for George V. Drake, who was a painter and decorator in the Chicago area. We were able to find his name listed in the 1887 Lakeside Annual Directory for Chicago. The listing reads: ”Drake George V. paints and wallpaper 217 W. Madison, h. 510 W. Jackson”We have found other interesting items during the construction (an empty wine bottle, shards of ceramic plates), but this little business card has been one of the most fascinating.

Hawkeye Refrigerator Basket

HawkeyeBasketAndAd

This is a Hawkeye Refrigerator Basket. These baskets were all the rage in the early 1900’s. The exterior of the basket is made of rattan and the interior is lined with a heavy, non-rustable nickel plate. It contains a detachable ice bucket which is made of zinc and is nickel plated. Its insulation … asbestos, not something we’d like in our modern refrigerator baskets!Baskets like this one were used by people for picnics, just as we would use one today. Advertisements say that “a small piece of ice in a Hawkeye Refrigerator Basket keeps lunch and bottles cold all day. An outdoor lunch from a ‘Hawkeye’ doubles the pleasure of your motor boat or auto trip. Rids you of unappetizing food or drinks.”

Art Nouveau Lamp of a Breton Woman with Seashell

Lady-Shell

This beautiful bronze Art Nouveau lamp in the library of the Dawes house demonstrates a fascinating story of an emerging cultural ethos that sought to combine beauty with utility. Designed in 1900 by French sculptor Leo LaPorte-Blairsy (1865-1923), the flowing bronze robes of this Breton woman sweep in emphatic curved folds that mirror the curves of the real shell she holds to shade the electric light bulb. As electricity came into common usage, the potential for creativity in lighting design exploded. LaPorte-Blairsy became the leading creator of innovative sculptural lighting design, noted for his “luminous fantasies.”Leo LaPorte-Blairsy was born in Toulouse, France in 1865. He studied under several major sculptors and had his debut exhibit in 1887 at the Salon of the Societies des Artistes Francaise. His early interest in monumental sculpture was transformed by his impression of the burgeoning movement of designed objects d’art, particularly the incorporation of electricity into lighting fixtures. His sculptures of women in strong poses holding beautiful, lighted objects made him one of the premier artists in the field. His best known work, The Milky Way, was executed three years later.

Tortoise Shell Hair Comb

This tortoise shell hair comb, which the EHC lent to the Museum of Science and Industry for their Materials Science exhibit (March 2015), is a natural tortoise shell ornamental hair comb from the early part of the 20th century. It was probably made between 1900 and 1920. Those who have been watching Downton Abbey will recognize such ornaments having been worn by all of the Crawley women. Tortoise shell, ivory, silver, and horn were commonly used throughout the 19th century to make ornamental combs for ladies hair. The EHC’s example has been cut from a thin slice of tortoise shell, cut into an intricate design and formed into a gentle curve. Tortoise shell is a natural thermoplastic, therefore it can be easily shaped with heat and steam. It is currently illegal to make new items from tortoise shell, or to sell such items, unless one can document that they are at least 100 years old. Today, modern plastics have replaced the natural material for combs and other articles.